Images de page

As again in the tableau of the Cortesianus, the female principle, Ik mamacah, the "life nullifier," "she who causes life to disappear," is placed to the left, so in the Palenque tablet the female, the generator, is likewise placed to the left (that is, the west), where every evening the sun disappears, leaving behind him darkness, in which generation takes place. The badge on her arm, a circle with its perpendicular and horizontal diameters intersecting each other, image of the mundane cross, is the symbol of the impregnated virgin womb of nature,1 hence of the life to come; while her headdress is adorned with leaves, emblem of the life that has come.

Both are making offerings to their god: the priest presents a young bird; the priestess, a full-grown plant with its roots, trunk, leaves, flowers, and fruit. We are told that they are the chacs, keepers of the troughs in which the sacred balché is fermenting.2

It is well to recall here what Father Cogolludo, quoting various authors who wrote regarding the Conquest and the customs and religion of the natives, says respecting the cross as symbol of the god of rain:

"Gomara, speaking of the religion of the people of the island of Cozumel, says: 'Near by there was a temple that looked like a square tower, in which they kept a very

'See Appendix, note xiii.

[ocr errors]

The balché was a fermented liquor made of honey and the bark of the balche tree steeped in water. It was used to make libations in the sacrifices to the gods, and in all religious rites-as the wine is used at the mass in Catholic churches. Does not this sacred balché of the Mayas bring to mind the soma of the Hindoos, made from the Asclepias acida and from the Sarcostemma acidum; or the amrta, the divine beverage of the Indian gods; or the nectar that Homer tells us the beautiful Hébé dispensed to the gods of Olympus?


Cogolludo, Hist. de Yucathan, lib. iv., cap. ix., pp. 200-202.

famous idol. At the foot was an enclosure made of stone and mortar, highly finished with battlements. In the middle of this existed a stone cross ten palms high, which they regarded and worshipped as the god of rain; because when it did not rain, and the water was scarce, they went to it in procession and with great devotion. They made offerings of quails that had been sacrificed, in order to allay its wrath against them with the blood of this small bird; after which they held it certain that rain would soon fall.'' "Torquemada says,

that after the Indian Chilam Balam showed them the symbol of the cross, they regarded this as the god of rain, and felt certain that they would never be in want of rain whilst they devoutly asked it of the cross." "Dr. Yllescas, in his Pontifical (lib. 6, chap. 23, § 8), also says that they had a god, in the shape of a cross, which they regarded as the god of rain."

[ocr errors]

Without a knowledge of the Maya language and of the symbolism of the Maya occultists, it would be well-nigh impossible to understand why a quail, a bird, in full plumage, is figured perched on the top of the cross; why the cross is planted on a skull; why devotees offered sacrifices of birds to the god of rain. The explanation, however, is most simple. The bird on the top of the cross typifies the seed deposited in the ground at the beginning of the rainy season, and placed in the keeping of the god of rain, invoked as protector of the fields. Chiich is the Maya generic name for "bird; " but it also means "seed," and "to gather one by one grains that have been scattered," as birds do in the fields, robbing the owners of both the seed and the crops. What, then, more natural than to offer their enemies in sacrifice to the god, to the Yumil col, the lord of the crops? This is why they

made offerings of birds, those destroyers of the crops, those robbers of the seed, to the protector of the fields.

The cross being planted on a skull simply indicates that from death springs life; that the seed symbolized by the bird on the top of the cross must first become decomposed in the ground before coming again to life in the shape of a plant.

It is well to notice that all the ornaments that, besides the text, adorn the tablet, are either leaves, flowers, or some other parts of the living plant, showing that the temple, where it was placed, was dedicated to the god, protector of agriculture.



LET us revert to our inquiry concerning the customs observed at funerals by both Mayas and Egyptians. We will examine one or two so remarkable that they cannot be honestly attributed to mere coincidence.

We have seen that in Mayach, as in India, Chaldea, Egypt, and many other countries, a certain kind of ape was held sacred; its worship being, no doubt, closely related to that of ancestors. But how came the cynocephalus to be connected in Egypt with the rites of the dead? This species of monkey is not a native of Egypt, but is of Central America, where it is very abundant.

Thoth, the god of wisdom and letters, was the reputed preceptor of Isis and Osiris. He was supposed to hold the office of scribe in Amenti, where his business was to note down the actions of the dead, and present or read the record of them to Osiris while sitting as judge of the lower regions. Thoth, in that capacity, is represented as a cynocephalus monkey, in a sitting posture. He is thus frequently portrayed seated on the top of the balance in the judgment scenes, and

regarded as the second of the gods of the dead. In Mayach, also, Baaɔ, the cynocephalus, was the attendant of the "god of death," and always represented in a kneeling posture.

During our sojourn at Uxmal we surveyed a ruined edifice little known to visitors, although quite extensive. On the summit of the pyramid, forming the north side, is a shrine composed of two apartments, one smaller than the other. The smaller, the sanctum sanctorum, can only be reached by passing through the larger. Opposite the doorway of the front chamber, and at the head of the steep stairway leading to the yard, is a round stone altar where, Landa tells us, human victims were immolated, as offerings to the deity. At the foot of those stairs is a large rectangular platform, one metre high. The sides were once composed of slabs covered with inscriptions beautifully sculptured in intaglio to make them more lasting. Having been submitted to the action of fire, the characters have become well nigh obliterated. On several of the slabs that had happened to fall face downward, the writing is well preserved.

The centre of the platform was occupied by a huge statue of the Yum cimil, “god of death," represented by a skeleton in a squatting posture. His attendants were six cynocephali, kneeling as if in prayer (Plate XXIV.), placed on each side of him, one at each corner of the platform, one between these in the middle of the east and west sides. The god of death faced south, where his kingdom was supposed to be situated.

In the present state of our knowledge it is difficult to surmise why that species of ape came to be connected, in Mayach, with the rites of the dead. We might, perhaps, find the explanation by translating the inscriptions that adorned the platform, at least what remains of them. Is it a

« PrécédentContinuer »